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Registration date : 2009-01-03

PostSubject: Jobs: Youth's top worry   Sat Jan 31, 2009 10:54 pm

Jobs: Youth's top worry
By Kor Kian Beng

A LACK of job opportunities was the top concern among young Singaporeans at a dialogue last night to discuss the just-unveiled Budget.

There were also concerns about the impact of the Budget on future generations as the Government was, for the first time, dipping into the reserves to fund programmes.

Held at the Singapore Polytechnic Graduates' Guild, the two-hour dialogue, titled 'Is this a youthful enough Budget?', was organised by the Young PAP (YP), the youth wing of the People's Action Party. It is the first of six dialogues planned for the year.

It drew some 50 students and professionals who gave their views on the $20.5 billion Budget introduced on Jan 22.

It did not take long for YP vice-chairman Christopher de Souza, who led the discussion, to find out that getting and keeping a job was their top concern.

The first two questions of the night - out of 20 posed - came from two jobless, fresh graduates who were fretting about their job prospects in the downturn.

One said she was worried that with no working experience, job seekers like her stood little chance with employers looking for experienced workers.

Mr De Souza, who is in charge of YP's political education group, said there were still jobs available. He cited the public sector's recent announcement of 18,000 job openings at various ministries and agencies.

But another fresh graduate from the Singapore Management University went further and asked whether Singapore should introduce 'protectionist measures' to take care of Singaporeans first.

Mr De Souza's response: Singapore, being a highly open economy, cannot push for protectionist measures in areas like trade. 'But I think there's a certain amount of merit in what you described as protectionism vis-a-vis jobs. I think we can afford to put Singaporeans first in this economic climate,' the MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC said.

He said he may raise the issue at next week's Budget debate in Parliament: 'Perhaps we have to look at the quota mechanism for the number of Singaporeans you have to employ before you can employ a foreigner. Because you're right, we have to take care of Singaporeans and their jobs first.'

But he was quick to add that a fine balance had to be struck as foreigners here did create value and contributed to growing the Singapore economy.

Bedok North resident Cai Tianhao noted that more low-skilled, jobless Singaporeans were seeking help from MPs.

Mr De Souza said the Government would continue to help the needy but would avoid the path of welfarism.

Citing the Workfare Income Supplement scheme, which gives an income boost to low-wage workers, he added: 'It (welfarism) is dangerous and certainly not encouraged by the Government. That's why it's Workfare, not welfare. So you work, you get your fare, and that will continue to be the way.'

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